To help identify how the festive season could be affecting your hormones, we caught up with expert nutritionist from bioniq, Clarissa Lenherr, who explains five ways the festive season might be causing you more harm than good and what you can do about it
You’re not getting enough sleep
You might not recognise it, but not getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours according to The National Sleep Foundation) can affect everything from your stress hormones, to how hungry you feel, and even your insulin levels. As a result of this, the imbalance of these hormones can cause sleep deprivation.
To achieve those sufficient hours of sleep every night, try to reduce your screen time, avoid caffeine after 3 pm and alcohol two hours before bed, as this prevents you from entering restorative modes of sleep.
It’s making you stressed
The festive season is often a stressful time for many, and this can directly affect the equilibrium of your hormones. Due to increased stress levels, you release more of the stress hormones known as cortisol, which when constantly elevated, can affect the production of sex hormones, impair thyroid function and imbalance blood sugar levels. It can also make it difficult for your body to create those ‘feel good’ hormones like serotonin. To help promote relaxation and reduce the release of cortisol, why not try incorporating meditation or breathwork into your daily routine.
Your gut health is insufficient
The gut microbiome plays an important role in fermenting foods to form molecules called short-chain fatty acids which can encourage the release of appetite-suppressing gut hormones. During the festive season, many tend to consumer more high-fat/high-sugar foods, due to all the Christmas puddings and brandy butter, which can alter the gut microbiome and potentially lead to weight gain, food cravings and lowered mood.
You have reduced your exercise
It is no surprise that for many, exercise routines go out of the window in December. Exercise can stimulate endorphins (one of your feel-good hormones), regulate cortisol, improve insulin sensitivity and boost your sex hormone production. So, with a reduced amount of exercise, you can find that optimal hormonal balance might fluctuate. Though this is difficult in the winter, my advice would be to get moving! The NHS suggests 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. You could even get friends and family involved by going on a pre-festive meal walk, add in a few crisp morning runs or take advantage of the time off to engage in a new fitness activity you enjoy.
You are deficient in certain nutrients
With a diet bursting with mince pies and mulled wine, the festive season can leave you on the slightly lower side of optimal nutrient intake. Additionally, high alcohol consumption can inhibit the absorption of many of your key nutrients. For example, low levels of Vitamin D, Iron, Selenium, Zinc and Vitamin E can impact the balance of your hormones.
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